Why you should never give paracetamol to dogs

Why you should never give paracetamol to dogs

Health & Safety

If your dog has taken a knock or appears to have hurt themselves in a minor way that does not appear to warrant a visit to the vet, it is natural to wonder if there is anything that you can do at home to make your dog more comfortable and take the edge off an ache or pain.

Over time, most dog owners have wondered at some point if they cannot simply give half a paracetamol tablet or a child’s paracetamol pill or liquid to their dogs in order to make them feel better-after all, we commonly use such over the counter painkillers for ourselves for headaches and other issues with no problems.

However, the simple (and yet complete) answer to whether or not you can give your dog paracetamol of any type at home is absolutely not-this is incredibly dangerous and may even prove fatal.

In this article we will look at why you should never give over the counter paracetamol to your dog, what can happen if your dog does eat paracetamol, and what to do instead. Read on to learn more.

What is paracetamol?

Paracetamol is the generic name for a painkiller that contains the active ingredient-the part that eases pain-called acetaminophen, which is widely used in the UK to ease mild pain and lower slightly raised temperatures.

It is considered safe enough to use if uses correctly that it can be bought off the shelf in many places and does not need a prescription, which leads to many people overlooking the potential risks that can accompany incorrect use of the drug.

Even in humans, taking too much paracetamol (either in one dose or cumulatively over time) can be very dangerous, and paracetamol is actually poisonous to cats at any dosage.

Paracetamol tends to get to work quickly, wear off within a couple of hours and only rarely cause side effects in people-all of this, coupled with its low price and easy availability to buy makes it the most popular non-prescription painkiller in the UK, and one that most of us keep at home.

Why shouldn’t you give it to your dog?

Whilst paracetamol is very occasionally prescribed to dogs at very carefully controlled low doses for very specific indications, even this is very uncommon as so many different options that are much better for dogs are available.

Even when administered by your vet, paracetamol can be a risky medication, and it is hugely uncommon for vets to use it for dogs for any application. To give the right dosage for a dog can be challenging and even a small deviation in the amount of acetaminophen given can have acute negative effects, and generally, paracetamol is not a medication that tends to be used for animals of any kind.

Paracetamol (or rather, its active ingredient of acetaminophen) can easily cause acute liver failure in dogs, and this is the main reason behind why it is not given to dogs.

Additionally, it causes destruction of red blood cells, and cell-level changes that cause the red blood cells to become deformed and unable to function properly, leading to a lack of oxygenation throughout the blood that in turn, leads to brain damage, strokes, and death.

What can happen if your dog has eaten paracetamol?

You should never administer paracetamol to your dog at home for any reason-not even if you only give a half a tablet or crush a tablet up and give a tiny amount. It is simply not safe. If your vet prescribed paracetamol for your dog, find out why they are doing this-there are a huge number of different and very effective alternative medications available for dogs, and it is highly unusual for a vet to use paracetamol in their place.

However, if you find that your dog has eaten paracetamol by mistake, or one of your children has decided to give one to the dog or for any other reason, know or suspect that your dog has consumed the medication, contact your vet immediately.

While your dog may appear fine, the internal damage to the liver and red blood cells that paracetamol can cause will take a while to become evident, and so it is a mistake to think that you have gotten away with it just because your dog does not fall ill immediately.

The sooner you can get veterinary help, the better-veterinary care provided soon after ingestion can potentially eliminate or absorb some of the paracetamol before it has the chance to cause damage, and any potential damage can be limited and tackled before it worsens too.

When you go to the vet, take the packaging of the paracetamol with you (because it can come in a huge range of different strengths and doses, and ascertaining how much your dog had is vital) and tell your vet as much as you can about how many pills the dog ate, when it was, and anything else relevant.

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